Saturday, 27 September 2008

Being mugged by Teletubbies on Prozac

I’ve just joined the board of the One World Centre – which provides Manx schools with their material about the developing world, environmental and human rights issues. It was set up as a joint initiative by volunteers for Oxfam, Amnesty International, Save the Children, Christian Aid and local environmental groups, and is also a source of advice to government on overseas aid policy.
The encouraging thing is that I was asked to join by the Christian Aid worker who chairs the committee and the Anglican lay reader who runs the centre. They recognise the usefulness of a secular campaigner who will point out unwitting faith monopolies and generally challenge the lazy view that ‘morality’ should be left to churches.
This was a welcome advance. Previously, as with other ‘moral’ concerns, church leaders tended to think they should control the Centre even when they can’t be bothered to do the work.
I still thought hard before accepting. At its best, Overseas Aid can be ineffectual feel-good dabbling, and at its worst it patronises people to death and doesn’t even have the guts to admit it does it for neo-colonial reasons.
The AGM was a useful guide to the current state of affairs. The well meaning staff and volunteers were so obsessed with ‘positive thinking’ and not giving offence that it was like being mugged by Teletubbies on Prozac. After an hour of relentlessly cheerful annual reports I was ready to slash my wrists even before the ‘entertainment’ - an earnest gap year student armed with a didgeridoo. After that I ran into the night before I could be dragged back for three compulsory choruses of ‘Kumbaya’ and a group hug.

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